OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR CHRISTOPHER S. BOND

Senator BOND. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for calling this important hearing to investigate the causes of the Persian Gulf War Syndrome because many U.S. veterans and their families are currently suffering.

I think we owe it to our veterans to do everything we can to determine the causes of the Gulf War Syndrome, to develop and research cures for these veterans who are affected, and to do whatever we can to better prepare and protect our service personnel from illnesses associated with this syndrome in any future conflicts.

Mr. Chairman, I have a lengthy statement. I am just going to highlight a couple of items on it because, No. 1, I have another commitment at 11 a.m., and, No. 2, I think it might be well if we could get to our witnesses before noon.

The CHAIRMAN. Yes, indeed.

Senator BOND. So I will just summarize to say that we have thousands of American servicemen and women who are suffering from symptoms and undiagnosable disorders. It is consistent with exposure to biological or chemical toxins.

I think, collectively, the facts make it at least possible that these Gulf War veterans were exposed to chemical and/or biological toxins, and I support Public Law 103-210, which provides additional authority for the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs to provide priority health care to the veterans of the Persian Gulf War who have been exposed to these toxic substances, environmental hazards, or whatever caused this syndrome.

I think we have a duty, not only to these veterans, but to others, to investigate fully whether or not chemicals or biologicals were used on the troops and what caused the problems that they are now encountering.

I do have some real concerns. First, I find it disturbing that the Department of Defense has not been as forthcoming on this issue as I feel they must. It's been almost 2 years since the Gulf War and it does not appear to have been a Defense Department priority to get to the bottom of the causes of Gulf War Syndrome. It may or may not be a result of chemical or biological warfare. But the odds of this syndrome affecting future units in combat is grave enough to warrant full and speedy investigation.

Second, it would appear that a thorough re-evaluation of our defenses against biological and chemical warfare is in order.

Finally, I am concerned about the possibility that these adverse effects on the veterans could have come from the administration of the nerve agent pretreatment drugs and inoculations distributed to our Armed Forces. A research specialist has commented that the drug was unproven. And I really think we have to do more research on the side effects of this drug and the advisability of administering it to our troops. No. 1, could it have caused some of the problems? No. 2, was it effective? What are its risks? I think these open up a tremendous number of questions that should be addressed.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to have my full statement made a part of the record.

The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, the full statement will be made a part of the record. I appreciate your summary comments very much.

Senator Bennett.

 



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